Coronavirus: World Health Organisation Declares COVID-19 Outbreak A 'Pandemic' (Photo Credit: IANS)
New Delhi :
The new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was alarmed by the spread and severity of the outbreak, along with a lack of action taken to combat it.
"COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," he told reporters in Geneva. He said he expected the number of cases and deaths would grow in the coming days and weeks.
"We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus," he said. He also said hard-hit Iran was trying its best to control the outbreak but needed more supplies.
Meanwhile, India on Wednesday suspended all visas, except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, till April 15 to prevent the spread of coronavirus as 10 new cases were reported taking the total number of patients in the country to 60.
However, as per state health officials, the number of confirmed cases maybe up to 65.
As the infection continued to spread its tentacles in the country, state governments and Union territories took a number of preventive measures.
The government also "strongly advised" Indians to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. The decision on suspension of visas was taken at a meeting of a group of ministers held here under the chairmanship of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
"All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure," an official statement said.
Visa-free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders is also kept in abeyance till April 15, it said.
All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days, the statement said.
As preventive measures, the Jammu and Kashmir administration ordered closure of primary schools and aganwadi centres and shutting down of cinema halls across the region till 31 March, while the Karnataka government issued temporary regulation which asked all government and private hospitals to have flu corners for screening of suspected cases of COVID-19.
According to the regulation, no person/institution shall use print or electronic media to spread mis-information on COVID-19 without prior permission of the Department of Health & Family Welfare.If a person is found indulging in any such activity, they will be punished, it said. The Karnataka government also started a campaign called 'Namaste over Handshake' that encourages people to greet in the traditional Indian style, to tackle the spread of the virus.
As the cases of the infection continued to swell with over 119,400 confirmed cases reported globally so far out of which over 4,300 people have succumbed to the virus, India prohibited entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passenger with a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries post February 1, 2020 to its major ports till March 31.
To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the Ministry of Shipping said it will allow only such international cruise ships which had intimated their call to ports by January 1, 2020.
The government said international cruise ships will be allowed only at ports having thermal screening facilities for passengers and crew members.
Among the fresh cases, eight were from Kerala and one each from Delhi and Rajasthan since Tuesday, the Union health ministry said and gave state-wise breakup which included five (Delhi), nine (Uttar Pradesh), four (Karnataka) and two in Ladakh.
While the Union ministry maintained that there are two confirmed cases of the infection in Maharashtra, the state health officials put the number to seven.
Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab have reported one case each, the ministry said, adding Kerala has till now reported 17 cases, including the three patients who were discharged last month following recovery.
The total number of 60 confirmed cases includes 16 Italians tourists, the ministry said.